With London 2012 and memories of the summer Olympics still resonating around the world, you may be tempted to try some of the various sports and disciplines yourselves. Here’s five spots that offer top training for the next Olympic games.
The perfect place for a taste of archery is undoubtedly Sherwood Forest, legendary home of Robin Hood, where the visitor centre runs occasional summer “have a go” sessions (£2 for 5 arrows) beside the giant 800-year-old Major Oak. Nearby, at Southwell, the Sherwood Archers club offers a six-hour beginners’ course in target archery, the official Olympic version of the sport. But for the most Robin Hood-like experience, consider the Spirit of Sherwood field archery club: they hunt artificial, animal-shaped targets in the old forest itself.
Outdoor table tennis
Table tennis in Britain is derisively known as ping pong, but it’s a serious sport, and making a comeback since the “Ping London” initiative set up outdoor tables all over the capital in 2010. Not all will return, but there are plenty of permanent tables in parks – there’s one in Regent’s Park, right by the tennis courts. Just bring a bat, and a ball or two.
Visit the English Table Tennis Assocation’s website to find a table near you.
Real tennis, or jeu de paume
The saddest loss from the Olympic roster is surely real tennis, aka jeu de paume, aka court tennis, a superbly eccentric combination of squash and tennis which featured only in the Olympics of 1908. The sport is alive and well, however – as it has been for five hundred years. Famously, you can play it at Hampton Court Palace, but for a more modern experience make for the gleaming Millennium Court of the Middlesex Real Tennis Club in Hendon, north London.
The Middlesex Real Tennis Club has more information.
Fencing venues, sadly, rarely occupy the Great Halls of castles. You won’t find yourself skipping down the grand staircase so much as lunging along down the 2m-wide “piste” at a local leisure centre. Once you’re actually girded up with your mask and foil (or epée, or sabre), questions of atmosphere are forgotten, however. This is a fast and agile sport which retains more than a whiff of the danger of yesteryear. The award-winning Truro Fencing Club is one of the few with its own dedicated salle.
See www.britishfencing.com/clubs to find a fencing club near you.
Why would the Olympic Committee have voted to include beach volleyball in 1996? This is a sport in which bronzed and toned men and women in regulation-skimpy costumes dive around in golden sand, hugging and high-fiving. You can play it informally on any beach, but to try an Olympic-quality court, make for the Yellowave centre on Brighton beach. They run open sessions (for which you’ll need to be at least quite sporty), or you can just book a court with friends.